(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Faustine Noel: Be stronger than yesterday. Do not waste the ‘gift’!
Date: 4/2/2021 10:20 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Faustine Noel, former European Champion in mixed doubles SL4, world and European silver medallist in women’s singles SL4, is the BEC Para badminton player of the month. Noel shares her journey, her recent struggles and how she is building towards the Paralympics. 

‘Noel’ means Christmas in French, so it is perfectly fitting that French player, Faustine Noel, was born on Christmas Day. At the beginning of 2020, Noel, 27, was within the top ten of the Road to Tokyo ranking lists for women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Badminton Europe reported that at this stage, with only one player/pair per country, per event eligible to compete at the Paralympics, her status will make her the only European to achieve this if things remain this way throughout the remaining qualification period.

Noel explains her feeling when COVID-19 put a stop to her Olympic preparation. 

-I was frustrated, we were so close to the Paralympics, things had become real. Just after the announcement of the Paralympics postponement, I tried to find a positive view. That one year of training will permit me to continue my training and upgrade my goals!

Physical and mental preparation
Athletes in all sports have faced a long battle to get consistent training routines with the ever-changing restrictions. Noel explains her experience in France. 

-In France, we had two months of lockdown. We could not access any sports hall, so I focused on physical and mental preparation, and hit the shuttle only against a wall. Shortly after, thanks to the high-level athlete exemption, I was allowed to come back to training.

Noel used this time for improvement and stated her mantra that she goes by through this difficult time. 

-Be stronger than yesterday. Do not waste the ‘gift’ to have one more year to progress technically, tactically, mentally and physically.

A strange time
-This period is really strange for all of us, we had to redefine our social life and manage differently our time. I try to keep a strong relationship with family and friends. It also gave me time to take care of myself, find new pastimes and also begin my physiotherapy studies.

Through our #BadmintonAtHome campaign last year, we saw many badminton enthusiasts come up with creative ways to play. The pros are no different. 

-My coach was really listening about my feelings about missing competition, and he adapted well by developing sessions to recreate competition day to day. 

New goals in 2021
Looking forwards and not backwards is a skill often seen in elite competitors. Noel is very much excited to get back to playing tournaments again. 

-Returning to tournament play I will aim to find again my form on a competition court. Analysing my opponents, seeing how they made progress and adopt new training goals. This would finally make sure that I can bring my best game at the Paralympics.

Centre of Excellence Para badminton
Just before Christmas, French Para badminton player, Meril Loquette, trained at the Centre of Excellence. Commenting on this, Noel said. 

-I know he really appreciates this training approach. It will be lovely to see other Para badminton players attend. The level was really good, so he enjoyed the time. I think in general it is always good to take different advice from different coaches. Each coach has his own way to train, it is interesting to take all the advice and select all the things which fit you.

How it all started
Noel explains how her brilliant Para badminton journey began. 

-Thank to Lucas [Mazur], and the Para badminton coach. It was at a non-disabled competition, and they see me play with my handicap. They invited me to try Para badminton and intrigued me when they talked about participating in international tournaments, and now here I am!

Noel also gives an insight into why the sport is so interesting. 

-You need to acquire a lot of abilities: manage your racket, coordination, tactical decision-making, mental strength, concentration, fast reactions and resilience. All of these make it the hardest and best sport! 

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